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Ransom v. State

October 5, 2010

LEONARD RANSOM, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND FOR SOME CLAIMS (DOC. 1) OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE WITHIN TWENTY-ONE DAYS

Findings And Recommendations

I. Background

Plaintiff Leonard Ransom, Jr. ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his complaint on September 24, 2009.

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

II. Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at California Correctional Institution. Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") in Delano, California, where the events giving rise to this action occurred. Plaintiff names as Defendants: the State of California, former Secretary of CDCR James Tilton, and former warden of KVSP and current commissioner on the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH") Lea Ann Chrones.

Plaintiff alleges the following. On March 13, 1998, Plaintiff was convicted of the habitual offender sentence enhancement, and he received a sentence of life with the possibility of parole in twenty years. (Compl. ¶ 27.) At the time of Plaintiff's sentencing, persons convicted of life offenses, other than murder offenses, could only be denied a parole hearing up to two years. (Compl. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff received his latest parole hearing in June 9, 2009. (Compl. ¶ 49.) Defendant Lea Ann Chrones served as a commissioner in the hearing. (Compl. ¶ 49.) During the hearing, Plaintiff through his counsel objected to the application of Marsy's law, Proposition 9, which changed the next parole hearing dates for those with life sentences and eligibility for parole. (Compl. ¶ 53.) Plaintiff objected to a lack of jurisdiction by the parole board. (Compl. ¶ 55.) Plaintiff also requested a postponement of the hearing because Plaintiff was suffering deficient mental health care at the time. (Compl. ¶ 57.) All of Plaintiff's objections were denied.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Plaintiff was denied parole, with the next parole hearing set for ten years later. (Compl. ¶ 59.) Defendant Chrones cited to a number of false reports in Plaintiff's central file in support of the decision. (Compl. ¶ 60.) Defendant also applied the harsher parole guidelines for suitability hearings under Marsy's law. (Compl. ¶ 61.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was denied parole in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause and The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the board applied Marsy's law to his case. (Compl. ¶ 63.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Chrones used knowingly false information as a basis for her decision-making process in violation of substantive due process. (Compl. ¶ 64.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated due process when they conducted a parole hearing without jurisdiction. (Compl. ¶ 65.) Plaintiff alleges that he was deprived of equal protection when Defendant Chrones used Plaintiff's race and class as factors in the panel's decision. (Compl. ¶ 66.) Plaintiff also alleges a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. (Compl. ¶ 67.)

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff requests that Defendants be permanently enjoined from taking any action as a result of the June 9, 2009 parole hearing, and from applying Proposition 9 to any future parole hearing. Plaintiff requests a federal audit of his central prison file. Plaintiff requests an immediate parole hearing pursuant to the rules and laws in place when Plaintiff was sentenced. Plaintiff also requests a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from applying any laws or regulations adopted for the Board of Prison Terms, which Plaintiff contends was independent, to the Board of Parole Hearings, which Plaintiff contends is an arm of CDCR and not independent.*fn1

III. Analysis

A. Favorable Termination

Where the § 1983 action would not necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction or sentence, it may proceed. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005) (concluding that § 1983 claims were cognizable because granting declaratory and injunctive relief that would render invalid state procedures used to deny parole eligibility and suitability would "[not] necessarily spell speedier release"). Here, success would at most result in a new parole hearing for Plaintiff. Accordingly, this action is not barred by the doctrine of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

B. Defendant State Of California

The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against state agencies, as well as those where the state itself is named as a defendant. Lucas v. Dep't Of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Here, Plaintiff names the State of California, which has Eleventh Amendment immunity ...


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